The “New Year – More Geek Edition” of Dr. Bill Podcast #118

Dr. Bill Podcast – 118 – (01/05/08)
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New Geek Culture from “The Richter Scales,” “Here Comes Another Bubble!” Tech News (lot’s of it!) A Geek Project, preventing spam in phpBB forums… and a Geek Software of the Week: Time Utilities!

Geek Software of the Week: Time Utilities

Time UtilitiesHow about three for the price of one? (So to speak!) Three time based utilities for Windows!

Horst Schaeffer’s Software Pages

Date Reminder – This is a Date Reminder for recurring or nonrecurring events, like birthdays, bills to pay, appointments etc… The program can be run from the Startup folder with an option to show only if there is something to remind you of.

Calendar – The Calendar window can be sized to display up to 12 month (any width/height ratio). The month range can be shifted step by step. Click on month or year caption to select any month or year.

TimeSync – TimeSync gets the current time from a NIST server, and adjusts the PC clock if necessary. Accuracy is usually within a second. Time and date are displayed according to the user’s regional settings.”

Has Blu-Ray Won?

Blu-RayFirst Disney went Blu-Ray… now Warner Bros., and I read today that the new Macs are supposed to have Blu-ray… maybe Sony has won this round after all! I can remember when Sony had Betamax video tape and VHS won the day. Betamax was technically superior, but Sony mis-handled it, and lost out… so maybe this time they are getting it right!

Warner goes Blu-ray exclusive

“We’ve all been wondering what to make of those whispers that Warner was indeed going Blu-ray exclusive, and apparently, those rumblings are true. Based on a breaking release, Warner Bros. Entertainment will be releasing its high-definition titles ‘exclusively in the Blu-ray disc format beginning later this year’ According to Barry Meyer, Chairman & CEO, the move is a ‘strategic decision focused on the long term and the most direct way to give consumers what they want,’ and he also noted that ‘the window of opportunity for high-definition DVD could be missed if format confusion continues to linger.’ Notably, Warner will continue to release on both HD DVD and Blu-ray until May 2008, but after that, it’s BD for life for this studio. Oh, and while there’s nothing official mentioning any sort of payoff, we’re hearing that quite a sum was dished out to make this happen.”

Geek Project: How to Drastically Limit Spam on phpBB Forums

phpBBSo, you run a phpBB forum… and you spend most of your time deleting spam, deleting bogus new forum members… and you are about to just give up and close the sucker down! WAIT! Try these steps first! It could drastically reduce the spam that you have to clean up! And THAT would be worthwhile! I sure do hate what spammers do to both e-mail and on-line communities… there outta be a law!

(Below info from the phpBB Anti-Spam Project)

1) Use spam blocking IP blacklists. Where do you get them? Check the link below:

The phpBB Anti Spam Project

2) Enable your forums Captcha -Turn on your captcha in your ACP, most bots work around this, but it may help eliminate a small percentage of older bots. “Bots” are spammer scanning software robots that spammers set up to spam sites.

3) Enable “Account Activation” (via the users email) – Using the Admin activation may eliminate spam however in the end it will be just as much work as deleting spam and your forums activity will most likely suffer as most users sign up because they wish to immediately and impulsively reply to something they’ve read… If you enable their account manually at a later time, they may not return.

4) Hide from spammers – Make it harder for spammers to find you, without sacrificing surfers being able to find you:

A. Do not use /phpBB2/ as a forum location. – If your boards address is sitename.com/phpBB move your board to another address such as sitename.com/widgets. – This takes less than 30 seconds to do (with the exception of changing links on any HTML pages and emailing your members about the change.
B. Remove phpBB text – Remove the “Powered by phpBB 2.0.21 © 2001 phpBB Group” and replace it with an image of the text (so that spammer scanning software passes do not pick up on the “phpbb”)
C. Use Robots.txt to block spammer scanning software from indexing non vital areas of your forum. If your forum url is http://yoursitename.com/widgets create a text file and place the following in it (substituting widgets with the forums location, name it robots.txt and upload it to http://yoursitename.com/robots.txt )

Other mods you can implement:

1) IP logged upon Registration – good for banning memberlist spammers who do not post, but continually rejoin (A recent study at the phpBB Anti-Spam site illustrated that 53.3% of signups were memberlist spam and that 60% of those that posted used a different ip address to post than what they used to sign up.)
A. URL Censor – good for censoring bad spam urls in posts, memberlist web addresses, signatures, etc.
B. AutoDelete Non-Activated Users – good for removing memberlist spammers who do not confirm
C. AntiSpam Question (easy to install and modify). We’ve made this mod more successful based on other antispam mods.. I would recommend that you change the default question “What color is a lemon?” and the answer “yellow” to something that requires thought. Using the default question and answer will not be as effective as more people use this mod. Better yet, if your forum is a regional forum change it to something users in your country or region would know the answer to, but foreigners most likely would not. If a spammer does figure out the answer and shares it with other spammers, simply changing the question 1-2 times will more than likely discourage them from wasting their time in the future.
D. either one of these:
* Deter Comment Spam adds a rel-nofollow tag to all urls so SE’s do not pick them up. This also includes an add-on mod separately that will allow you to configure it to make exceptions for allowed urls (this add-on is not needed). This is not a bot or spammer deterrent as spambots won’t know about this, however it prevents spammers from ruining your sites Google PR and eliminates the benefit of giving them SE link popularity, however they still can get surfer traffic. The downside is that good members will not have the benefit “spammer scanning software-wise” of posting their urls. If this is an issue, the next mod may be a better alternative.
* There is another mod out there that will restrict new users from posting urls until they have reached X posts and have been a member for X days. (This creates more work for spammer, most won’t go through the trouble. However this mod can be a forum killer as many new members may also become frustrated.)

You will be surprised how much following the above steps will reduce your forum spam content! And, I still say that spammers should be first up against the wall when the revolution comes!

Malware is Evolving Faster Than PC Security Programs

The bad guys are currently winning the fight for your PC! PC World reports that the malware writers are using sophisticated methods to build and test new malware “products.”

Malware Evolving Too Fast for Antivirus Apps

“If you think that the latest security suites afford complete protection against malware attacks, think again. Today’s for-profit malware pushers use dedicated test labs and other increasingly professional techniques to improve their chances of infecting your computer. And the techniques they employ to outpace security software makers appear to be working. Make no mistake–a good security program can go a long way toward keeping you in control of your system. But PC World’s recent tests of security suites found that new malware easily evaded the applications. In our tests of how well security software blocks unknown malicious programs, the best performer detected only one in four new malware samples. In contrast, February 2007 results from similar heuristics testing showed that the best utilities caught about half of new samples. ‘In this industry, unlike others, we have an antagonist we have to deal with, someone we’re constantly battling back and forth with,’ says Hiep Dang, director of anti-malware research with McAfee’s Avert Labs. ‘The bad guys have the element of surprise.’ Even just a 12-hour head start can translate into thousands of infected PCs, and malware authors have long tested their programs against antivirus applications to make sure they get that critical jump on the opposition.”

Microsoft Thwarts Backward Compatibility!

In a strange move… Microsoft has removed support from it’s Office 2003 suite for old document formats in a new Service Pack!

Microsoft’s planned obsolescence smacks Office 2003

“It seems as though the planned obsolescence that Microsoft committed so blatantly in Vista is now impacting Office 2003, too, with the arrival of Service Pack 3. If you need to access old Microsoft file formats for early versions of Word, Excel, or Powerpoint — but you’ve suddenly and dramatically found yourself unable to do so — there’s an intentional reason from Microsoft behind that conundrum, according to a bulletin put out by Microsoft last month. The reason for the unexpected incompatibility is that, by default, the SP3 update, which became available in mid-September, blocks the file formats used by these older desktop productivity tools from Microsoft. Moreover, the same also holds true for the file formats used in older versions of products that just so happen to compete with some of Microsoft’s software offerings, such as the multi-platform Lotus Notes and Corel’s Quattro spreadsheet and Draw software.”

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